Noting that a United States federal appeals court has upheld the United Nations’ immunity from a damage claim filed on behalf cholera victims in Haiti, the Organization today said that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon deeply regrets the “terrible suffering” of the Haitian people and that the UN has a moral responsibility to the support the victims and the country in overcoming the epidemic.
“The Secretary-General notes yesterday's decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which upheld the immunity of the Organization from legal proceedings in the case of Georges et al v. United Nations et. al, in accordance with the UN Charter and other international treaties,” said a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson in New York.
The class action lawsuit was filed in October 2013 in US Federal Court in New York in connection with the cholera outbreak in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010. The suit called on the UN to compensate victims of the epidemic.
The cholera outbreak has affected an estimated 780,000 people and claimed the lives of over 9,100 people. The disease is typically contracted through contaminated food or water.
“The Secretary-General deeply regrets the terrible suffering the people of Haiti have endured as a result of the cholera epidemic,” said the statement issued today, which added: “The United Nations has a moral responsibility to the victims of the cholera epidemic and for supporting Haiti in overcoming the epidemic and building sound water, sanitation and health systems.”
Sustained efforts by national authorities and the international community have contributed to a 90 per cent reduction in the number of cases since the peak in 2011. “However, eliminating cholera from Haiti will take the full commitment of the Haitian Government and the international community and, crucially, the resources to fulfil our shared duty,” the statement explained.
According to the statement, Mr. Ban is actively working to develop a package that would provide material assistance and support to those Haitians most directly affected by cholera. These efforts must include, as a central focus, the victims of the disease and their families.
Further, the UN intends to intensify its support to reduce, and ultimately end, the transmission of cholera, improve access to care and treatment and address the longer-term issues of water, sanitation and health systems in Haiti.
“Despite repeated appeals, these efforts have been seriously underfunded, and severe and persistent funding shortfalls remain. The Secretary-General urges Member States to demonstrate their solidarity with the people of Haiti by increasing their contributions to eliminate cholera and provide assistance to those affected,” said the statement.
For decades, the UN has stood by the Haitian people, supporting them in their quest for democracy and the strengthening of their institutions and helping to rebuild the nation after the tragic earthquake of 2010, the statement said and added: “The Secretary-General and the United Nations as a whole are determined to continue this support, honour the people of Haiti and help them usher in a more peaceful and prosperous future.”
For more on the UN response to cholera in Haiti, please click here.